Let’s talk about Facebook Dot Com. It’s a place for your parents to post jeremiads about millennials, it’s the only website your grandparents know how to use. It’s a place to blog, a place to post to blogs of others. It’s a place to conduct business, it’s a place to gossip with your coworkers while you’re on the john. It is a place to advertise and be advertised to, a true “market” in the dumbest possible sense of the term. The fact that Facebook is not particularly good at doing any of these things is immaterial; all that matters here is that it does them. It’s a company that strives to be one of the nodes that connects our online identities to pretty much every site on the world wide web, besides the ones you can buy drugs from. What do they do with this information? Only God knows. The point is, this is a website created by someone who really, really, really likes being in charge.
Mark Zuckerberg, it turns out, is definitely a guy who likes to be in charge. Last week, to mark the occasion of Facebook’s 15th birthday, the God-Emperor Zuck Diesel himself descended from upon high to write a piece in The Wall Street Journal that was apparently him trying to justify Facebook’s predatory business practices, data-hogging tendencies, and general lack of transparency as unfortunate but necessary compromises that must be made in order to keep Facebook free. I say “apparently” here because the article was behind a paywall. (If you must learn more, Kara Swisher has a fun analysis of the Zuckercolumn over at the New York Times.)
Coming off of a severe violation of public trust — think Cambridge Analytica, sitting by as evil people used Facebook to incite a genocide in Myanmar, etc. — Mark Zuckerberg did what he always does: apologize for the blatantly wrong thing, then kept on doing even more blatantly wrong things. This time, just days after he made yet another appeal to why the public should trust Facebook, a TechCrunch investigation revealed that Facebook was paying teens to track literally everything they do on their phones for the purpose of “research,” employing sneaky tricks to get around all of the Apple App Store policies it was violating. Though Facebook hastily pulled the Facebook Research app from iOS the morning after the article published, it is soldiering on with the Android version, because Facebook truly does not give a damn-ass fuck about shit.
Whether or not he’s sincere about this or anything else is almost beside the point when you consider the context: Mark Zuckerberg wrote an article arguing that Facebook’s leading role in surveillance capitalism is necessary because Facebook should be free, and then published it on a website that made you pay money to read it. Such head-slapping ironies follow Zuckerberg around like the little Facebook trackers follow us around the web. He bought the private-messaging service WhatsApp and then took so much user data that WhatsApp’s co-founder quit in protest. One of his talking points is that Facebook makes the world a democratic place, but he’s on the record as being obsessed with Augustus Caesar, the general who destroyed the Roman republic by amassing so much power that he effectively boxed out the rest of the government. Mark Zuckerberg owns the world’s secrets, but employs a private security team to keep people from snooping in his trash cans. Most recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey revealed that Zuckerberg went through a period of “only eating what he was killing” and that he’d once slaughtered a goat and served it to his rival CEO for dinner. This sounds way more Satanic than it actually was, given that Zuckerberg, according to Dorsey, incapacitated his prey with a stun gun before going in for the kill. Speaking of which, remember that time Zuckerberg went on Facebook Live and couldn’t stop saying the word “meat”? Each of these little moments come together to paint a picture of someone who is not a normal human with a working understading of everyday social interaction who sincerely believes his own PR blasts about trust and connection with the human race. Instead, this is a person who deeply needs to control everything.
Last week, a PDF emerged on the internet, claiming that half of all Facebook accounts are fake. The PDF’s argument — that there are fake accounts on Facebook, and that Facebook is bad, and therefore literally half of the accounts on the site are definitely fake — is laughably thin, and so, in a normal world, it would have gone ignored. Except that it was authored by a guy named Aaron Greenspan, who’d been friends with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard. Greenspan is critical of Facebook because he’s actively shorting Facebook stock, as he discloses in the academic-ish whitepaper, but mainly because he believes that Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from him while they were in college.
Indeed, the paper is chock-full of unflattering instant messages that Zuck sent him back in the day (in case you’re wondering, there are more where those came from). Even if we discount the entirety of this document’s contents on the grounds that its author is clearly incredibly bitter, its very existence speaks volumes: exactly what threshold of asshole do you have to cross for one of your college friends to feel inspired to write a 75-page whitepaper about how much you suck shit? This is America. People don’t do crazy stuff here unless they have a good reason. (Facebook denied Greenspan’s goofy-ass report, but his claims garnered a mention in the New York Times, and the fact that Facebook responded at all speaks volumes.)
Often, I get the sense that if Mark Zuckerberg’s antisocial and anti-goat tendencies had been tempered by a nihilist-anarchist streak instead of a capitalistic one, he would have founded 4chan instead of Facebook. In a twist of fate, the inventor of 4chan now works at Google and, unlike Zuckerberg, seems fairly well-adjusted. Perhaps normal people who start social networks step away from them once they become too big for them to handle — after all, that’s also what MySpace Tom did, and he’s doing great. But obviously, Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, not 4chan or MySpace, and because he refuses to step off and let somebody else take the wheel, Facebook now employs a small army of people to put a positive spin on all the worst fruits of his mind grapes.
To Mark Zuckerberg, the one who dutifully sits on booster seats and answers dumb questions from our elected representatives and winks and nods emphatically in the other direction as his in-house goons hire freelance goons to convince conservatives that Facebook’s critics are just a bunch of George Soros’s goons and literally convinces children to give him money behind their parents’ backs, this all must be one gigantic headache right now. He has bigger things on his mind, things that probably involves phrases like “proactive sub-server intermandation” and “dynamic click-and-mortar bootstrapping” and which his jargon-addled brain will bootstrap from nonsense to process to data-farming. He must get back to these things, and after he is done with them he will probably go kill an endangered animal, eat it, and then write a check to a conservation charity in its blood. This, after all, is what Zuckerberg is all about. He doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever he wants and take the path of least resistance every single time. He doesn’t want to undermine democracy or drastically alter the modern economy for the worse, you see, but he’s gotta do it. How else is he going to change the world?